We don’t usually feel the need to comment about the casts of superhero television shows, but the actress who will play a character known as The Dreamer on CW’s “Supergirl” is another story.

Nicole Maines is an inspired choice to play a transgender superhero on the popular TV drama. At the tender age of 20, she has been a pioneer for most of her life, building understanding of transgender men and women and making the case for their inclusion into all aspects of our society.

We’ve known about her for a decade now (although not always by name), since she was in the fifth grade, when she was banned from the girls’ bathroom by school administrators in Orono because her gender identity was not the one that had been assigned to her at birth.

The legal battle that ensued resulted in a 2014 Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision that established that transgender people are protected from discrimination in public accommodations under the Maine Human Rights Act. The court made clear that those rights are not extinguished just because they could make some people feel uncomfortable.

Although her identity was protected in court records, the Maines family was generous and candid with the news media, in the hopes that people would better understand what they were facing and why they made the choice that they did.

Nicole along with her mother and father, Kelly and Wayne, and her twin brother, Jonas, were the subject of the best-selling book, “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family,” by Amy Ellis Nutt, a health and science writer for The Washington Post.


The book explained how some scientists now believe that gender identity is formed in the brain independently from the development of genitals and they don’t always line up. But it’s the way people respond to a transgender child, not their gender identity itself, that creates problems. The Maines family showed that a loving and supportive environment could provide a place for a healthy, confident young woman to grow up,

It almost feels as though public attitudes about issues of gender identity have matured along with Nicole Maines, but that’s overly optimistic. Just weeks ago, Gov. LePage vetoed a bill that would have made it inconsistent with a state medical license to perform so-called “conversion therapy,” designed to “cure” young people who think they may be gay or transgender.

Even though medical authorities like the American Academy of Child Psychiatrists and the American Medical Association say that there is no benefit and serious potential harm posed by therapies designed to convince young people to ignore what their minds and bodies tell them, Le-Page opposed the ban, saying that it would be a threat to parents’ religious liberty.

Transgender people are targets of hate crimes and the victims of discrimination, especially in states that don’t include them in their civil rights laws, as we do in Maine. A single character on a single TV show is probably not going to change that.

But just as the Maines family’s efforts blazed a trail for other transgender children in Maine schools, Nicole Maines’ appearances on “Supergirl” may make life easier for transgender girls and boys all over the country who dream about being accepted just as they are. That doesn’t take superpowers, but it helps to have a hero, and, after all she’s been through, Nicole Maines is right for the part.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.